Sunday, September 16, 2012

Painting plein air in the Bugaboos

Pigeon Spire and the Howser Towers over the Vowell Glacier
Watercolour and gouache
©2012 Charlene Brown

I’ve just returned from the ultimate plein air workshop – heli-paintingwith Robert Genn in the Bugaboos!
This is one of the paintings I started the first day.  Note the word ‘started’… Robert suggests that when you’re dropped off (note the term ‘dropped off’ as I’ll be going on about that at some length) in a spectacular spot such as this, you capture the ambiance, the lights and darks, and general awesomeness of the place as quickly and spontaneously as you can, then put your painting aside before you start puttering. He himself started as many as six paintings every day. 

In the format of my on-going Drama of Painting Plein Air, his actual words, when he saw the painting as it looks below, were:

Robert Genn: You must abandon this immediately.

It has taken me almost two weeks to see this with ‘fresh eyes’ and add the shadows and extra clouds that appeared later in the afternoon.

Now, about being dropped off by a helicopter… On the bus from Banff to the heliport in the Columbia Valley, the procedure was explained to us.   At first, I thought they were kidding, but no, this is really how it is done…   When you set down on some windswept, not-particularly-level ridge, the helicopter doesn’t actually stop, and they don’t want anyone near the ends of the rotor. So, as soon as you’re out the door, you crouch down no more than two meters from the runners, covering your head and holding all your stuff down until the helicopter is gone, and the prop-wash and the racket give way to silence. Then you straighten up as smoothly as possible, brush yourself off, and try not to think about assuming that crouched position again (with your eyes closed) while the helicopter lands beside you when it comes to pick you up.